Thursday, January 23, 2020
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Fox Island disappears in the Chesapeake

An island in the Chesapeake Bay that has served as an important educational spot for Maryland’s award-winning environmental science programs is being lost to rising sea levels, the Capital Gazette reports.

Fox Island (Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

Freshmen in the class of 2011 were the first to have environmental science be a high school graduation requirement, and learning in that subject definitely included the Chesapeake Bay and Fox Island. Much of the island is now all but under water, having lost marshland and shallow-water grass beds to erosion and sea level rise over half a century.

“We don’t tell local systems exactly what they must teach. There’s been some concern that we would be dictating a lot, but the standards are very broad,” the Daily Times in Salisbury quoted Bill Reinhard, then a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, as saying about the new requirement in 2011. “Maryland is so connected to its environment through bays, mountains, and the ocean. This is just a natural progression of what we are already doing. For kids, it’s always a highlight of the school year to be involved in environmental course work.”

But even before environmental science was a graduation requirement, the island had served as a mainstay for environmentally conscious students and teachers.

The Daily News Leader in Staunton, Virginia, called Fox Island “a tiny speck of marshland” back in 2005, a place where the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a conservation advocacy group, ran a lodge that was just one of four educational centers around the bay. “Environmental education has taken a big jump, just because things have gotten so bad,” the paper quoted Amy Hamilton, then a summer intern with the foundation, as saying.

And how prophetic those words were! This fall is the last season for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Fox Island Education Program, the foundation announced in a blog post last week.

“From its unique perch in the middle of the Chesapeake, we’ve provided life-changing learning experiences for tens of thousands of the watershed’s teachers and students for more than 40 years,” wrote Tom Ackerman, the foundation’s vice president of education.

“Many of them went on to pursue careers in science, public service, education, and environmental advocacy. It’s a testament not only to the magic of the island, but also to the exceptional cast of CBF educators and staffers who stewarded its shores for so long. … Letting it go is hard for all of us.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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